TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Nikita Kucherov and the Tampa Bay Lightning are moving on in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Kucherov scored his 27th career postseason goal and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 26 shots as the top seed in the Eastern Conference beat the New Jersey Devils 3-1 on Saturday to end the first-round series in five games.
Mikhail Sergachev became the youngest player in Lightning history to score a playoff goal and Ryan Callahan, back in the lineup after missing the previous two games with an upper-body injury, sealed it with an empty-netter with 1.7 seconds remaining.
Tampa Bay, which won the first two games at home before splitting a pair on the road, advances to a second-round series against the winner of the first-round matchup between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Kucherov, who had 100 points during the regular season, had five goals and five assists in the series. His sizzling shot past goalie Cory Schneider put Tampa Bay up 2-0 at 12:27 of the third period, and his 10 points were the most ever for a Tampa Bay player in a playoff series
Sergachev, at 19 years, 300 days, became the youngest player in franchise history to score a playoff goal, giving the Lightning a 1-0 lead in the first period.
Schneider did all he could to give the Devils a chance to extend their first playoff appearance since 2012. He stopped 35 of 37 shots, including Tyler Johnson’s breakaway that kept New Jersey within striking distance after Kyle Palmieri trimmed Tampa Bay’s lead to one goal with three minutes left.
Will Butcher and Taylor Hall assisted on the only goal for New Jersey, which played without injured defenseman Sami Vatanen.
Sergachev was second among NHL rookie defensemen in scoring with 40 points (nine goals, 31 assists) during the regular season and had had an assist for his first career postseason point in his playoff debut in Game 1.
New Jersey kept it close, killing off four consecutive penalties in the second period, when the Lightning outshot the Devils 18-4 but couldn’t expand its one-goal lead.
Schneider had two more saves early in the third as Tampa Bay sputtered on a fifth power-play opportunity.
Notes: The Lightning was 0-for-10 on the power play in Games 4 and 5, yet won both games. … Vatanen, New Jersey’s top defenseman, was injured during the opening period of Game 4 when he was checked high by Kucherov. The Devils also played without RW Stefan Noesen, who was scratched with a lower-body injury. … Callahan (upper body) returned after missing Games 3 and 4.
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